Where To Begin

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I want to do this writing thing, but I don’t know where to start.  Do I start writing short stories?  Do I keep blogging about the quips of daily life?  Do I make an outline?  Do I show you, the readers, everything?  Sincerely, I have no idea.

Honestly, I’ve never really been good at anything.  I’m not particularly athletic, I was an embarrassing cheerleader once upon a time, my attitude and general disposition are not increasingly enthusiastic, and I’m not creative in a hands on sense.  I am literally never going to make a wreath for my front door or use a hot glue gun without burning myself up in some tragic, over the top accident.  I don’t really have an ‘eye’ for anything other than brownies and how to break down a 2-3 zone.  If you’re looking for someone to fold your t-shirts perfectly, organize your linen closet, make a good pot of chili and a loaf of banana bread, I guess I would do in a pinch, but I’m not talented at anything really.

But, I can write.  I have voice.  I know it and I am pretty confident in it, but I am not that great.  For example, I don’t ever really think I could write a book because I have exactly zero work ethic.  So many ventures seem like such an awesome idea to me and then they get a little difficult or I get bored and I’m checking out immediately.  I can’t imagine this will be any different, and I know if I tried to write a book it wouldn’t be any different, but here we are, same old blog again.  I want to do this, and I want to do that, but really I only want to write it if it’s perfect on the first run and I don’t have to proof it and make it better, well, pretty much ever.

Unfortunately, that’s not how any of this works.  That’s not how writing works.  Nothing is perfect the first time, the second time, or the third.  Another thing is, it’s really scary.  The other night, I wrote something and shared it that actually had something to do with current events, something that I knew would be at odds with a lot of people.  When you write something in a public forum, you put yourself out there and you have to be ready for that.  But, honestly, a lot of things I write privately push me into looking myself in the mirror.  Sometimes I’m not really sure how or what I feel about a situation until I write about it.  Writing is powerful like that.

I’m not foolish and I don’t think I can change the world with my writing.  I don’t know that anything I ever write will be published outside of this blog.  I have to stop being scared if something is ‘good enough’ to post and just bore you all with everything.  You know, all 10 of you that read this (and that’s aiming incredibly high!).  But, if I get even single chuckle, provoke some thought, heck, make anyone feel anything, then I guess that’s the point.

So, again, where in the world do I even start?

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This probably will not be well received.

Tragedy typically provokes two types of responses; compassion and fear.  I’ve been exceptionally careful about how and what I have posted on social media in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, France.  As a human being with an unbelievable capacity for empathy, my heart aches.  Hundreds of people innocently went out on a Friday night with no fear or inclination that they would never make it home.  These people were parents, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, coworkers, friends, and significant others with heartbeats, souls, feelings, thoughts, beliefs, favorite coffee cups, and so much more.  I have never been to Paris, and what happened yesterday did not change my every day life.  But, I care deeply about the senseless loss of human life.  I ache for those who are left with the void of losing a loved one.  I am profoundly sorry.

That being said, I am not scared.

I am not scared of radicals.  I am not scared of an entire religion based on the heinous acts of less than 1%.  I will not be scared into believing that 1.6 billion people want my death because of the images I am fed.  I know who and what the threat is and that it is real.  Very, very real.  I acknowledge the danger of an unchallenged, unchecked ISIS because I am neither foolish nor naive.  I will not use the loss of 129 souls for political expediency before their families can even begin to mourn.  Because it’s not about my beliefs, it’s not about how I feel about immigration or gun control or war.  I understand these are real conversations and conversations that must be had, but at this moment, these are the conversations of the removed.  These are the conversations of those of us who are safe in our homes tonight, sleeping next to someone we love, texting someone we haven’t lost, thinking about what we will do with our day tomorrow when we wake.

Because we will wake.  129 innocent, beautiful lives will not.

Today Is Okay.

Today we close on our first home.

For the last 6+ months, Chad, myself, our 55 pound dog Trevor, and our 3 ill tempered cats (Sophie, Sadie, and Zoey) have lived in a 1 bedroom, 1 bath, 1 living space, too tiny apartment.  It was the apartment I moved into when Chad and I started dating and I needed to spread my wings and leave my Mama.  I loved that apartment.  I hate the carpet in that apartment, but I loved that apartment and it has certainly served it’s purpose and then some.  But, like with everything else in life, it’s time for change.

We always joke that living so close together for the last half a year has been hard, but it really hasn’t.  The worst fight we’ve had was when Chad first moved in and it was, you guessed it, over something stupid.  Nobody really yells, I sometimes slam a door because I’m approximately 12, and most of the time my biggest annoyance is stepping in pee because someone is too lazy to turn the light on to aim properly at 3am.  The fact is, the best part of my day is coming home to Chad or him coming home to me.  That’s not to say we don’t get on each other’s nerves because we certainly do, but I kinda like the guy.  He’s my best friend.

I’m writing today because I can’t help but think about how much life changes in 365 days.  Today, we’ve been married for six months (actually, on the 18th), and we close on our first home.  This time one year ago, Chad rushed to the hospital as my grandmother passed away.  He and I didn’t live together, we weren’t engaged, we certainly weren’t married, and we weren’t even thinking about buying a house.  I didn’t cry that day.  Or the next day.  I didn’t cry until the morning of the funeral, actually.  I had a really hard time being sad because she was suffering so much in those last months.  I missed her, don’t get me wrong, but her labored breathing and tired, exhausted eyes were hard to look at and I knew she was very ready.

I know she would be extremely happy and excited for me today.  I know when we finally moved in she would worry about me being by myself and ask me when Chad would be home, though I’ve always been extremely independent and capable.  I was her littlest girl, the little wavy, brown haired baby that she would watch intently as I ran down the path in the yard and made it to our back door.  Even to this very day one year ago, I was that little girl to her.  That fact used to bug me, but I’m okay with it now.

Today is okay.  Today is happy. Today, I sign “Alena Hughes” to eleventy billion papers and become a home owner.  Today, I miss Rusha Dae and wish I could show her our house, even if only in pictures.

Today is an anniversary and a new beginning.

Today is okay.

Sometimes, I feel incredibly broken.

Okay, most times, I feel incredibly broken.  As my almost 15 year struggle with depression has evolved into sometimes crippling (and always present) anxiety, it’s like I can’t get ahead of anything or get ahead of myself.  Before I got married and when I was still single, I ached for someone in my life that could understand me and I have that now.  My marriage is one of the best parts of my life, honestly.  But, as with most things in life, when one part comes together, something else falls apart.

I can’t hardly function in social situations anymore.  Well, sometimes I’m okay.  Getting me out of the house is a chore.  I sit and obsess about how much people don’t want me around them, and I convince myself that people only want to hang out because they feel sorry for me (or feel sorry for Chad) and want him there and know that I’m part of the deal.  Just while typing that, my heart started beating faster and I felt my palms start to sweat.  I need longer away from group situations than I ever used to because I have to decompress and talk myself down from innocent comments that I’ve taken the wrong way or feeling left out.  I’m not saying any of this to get sympathy from you if you’re reading this, I’m saying it because I can’t control it.  I know the issues are paranoia and anxiety and sometimes straight up worthlessness.  There is no magical switch.

Texting people first to start a conversation feels impossible and I rarely do it.  A phone call is out of the question.  In the last year, I have completely fallen off with people that I care about because I feel like a nuisance to them.  When people don’t answer me or they seem ‘short’ I’m convinced they’re annoyed with me for trying to speak to them at all.  I sometimes beg Chad to not make me to go into social situations where I am not 100% comfortable because the fear I feel is crippling and painful.  Even when I am comfortable, I struggle.  It hasn’t reached a point that I am avoiding work or calling off to stay home, but I can see how it would easily get there and it’s really only because I don’t have the time off to take for it.  I answer a phone all day and that constant interaction often leaves me feeling upset, drained, and so anxious that I can feel my insides shake.

The more I re-read this, the more I don’t want to post it because it scares me to be this honest about what’s been going on with me.  Because I am typically the clown, the jokester, the loud one, the funny one, these are the parts that most people don’t see and thus, they rarely believe it when people like me come forward.  But, I’m going to post it.  Because maybe there’s someone else reading this that’s been quietly struggling, too.  I hope that anyone reading this that thinks I have been odd or stand offish will realize whatever I’ve done (or not done) has not been a personal affront to you.  It’s just me right now.  It’s just me.

What’s so frustrating is that I have so many wonderful, exciting reasons to be SO happy.  And I am really happy.  I have so many positive people in my life, I’m so excited about our new house, I love being married, I have good friends — the list goes on and on.  So, I feel like this struggle means I am ungrateful, but I am the complete opposite of that and worrying about someone thinking I’m ungrateful for my life makes the cycle start all over again.  Funny how that works, I guess.  Not every day is bad, and not every day is a struggle.  But, more times than I really care to admit — functioning on a normal level IS a struggle.  

I’m still trying.

I realize I’ve blown social media up in the last few days asking for prayers and support and sometimes donations for the flood victims in Johnson County.  But, today, I feel really compelled to share with you the story of a family that I am acquainted with and ask you to open your hearts to them during this time.

I went to high school with Tracy Thompson but we didn’t know each other well.  It wasn’t until the last couple of years of interacting on social media that I became more acquainted with her and her family through pictures of her adventures with them or with her husband, Dustin.  Tracy was a nurse at Paul B. Hall Regional Medical Center during several of the sometimes week long stays that my Granny Rusha endured during the last few years of her life.  My Granny loved her, and we loved her, because she was always so incredibly sweet and helpful.  I know that she would say that she was just ‘doing her job’ but when a family member is sick, and you’re physically and emotionally exhausted, having someone who seems to genuinely care goes a long way in terms of comfort. Tracy’s husband, Dustin, is a Kentucky State Trooper and while I don’t know him, I think the fact they both have chosen to give their lives to service based jobs tells you what kind of people they truly are.

Tracy’s Dad, Terry Dean, is a Flat Gap fixture.  Stapleton’s Garage has existed on 172 since I can remember and we have always given them our business.  We knew if we took our vehicles to Stapleton’s that the job would be done right and we’d be treated fair.  During the summer, I can’t tell you how many times I have driven home to my Mom’s from work and they’d be closing up shop, and then on my way back through town, Terry Dean and his brother would be out mowing off their own lawns and every house around them (I believe the whole Stapleton clan lives very close together), and I always thought — do they ever sleep?  During the school year, Terry Dean drives a bus for the county.  What I’m telling you is — these people are some of the hardest working, honest, service oriented people I have ever seen in my life, and they need your help.

On Monday, July 13, an unimaginable flash flood came through Flat Gap, Ky and destroyed Tracy’s house, washed Terry and his wife’s away completely, and moved Tracy’s sister’s home several feet off the foundation so it was at an angle with the road.  Terry and Bev’s house was picked up, broken up, and literally carried away, all that’s left is the foundation.

If you can, today, please donate whatever you can spare to the rebuilding fund for the Thompson/Stapleton family.  They lost their homes, their cars, their clothes, family pets, and every personal belonging they ever had.

Please click in the link the subject line or click HERE. Thank you.

Tracy and Dustin’s Home. I believe water got as high as 6 feet or better. Everything was destroyed.
Tracy’s sister’s home
Around the middle is where Terry Dean and Bev’s home use to be.

it’s me & you; come on, would it really be so bad?

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Timehop hit me with the relevance this morning. I sent this screen cap in an iMessage to Chad and said, “The time we were in the same room for hours and didn’t even know each other”. Recently, while discussing the Paintsville Country Club, Chad described a wedding he’d attended there a few years ago. The more he talked, the more I realized — I was at the same wedding. Chad and I didn’t meet until September 2012, so the fact that we were so close in proximity almost 2 years prior to that made both of us laugh. I mean, it wouldn’t have been all that pertinent for us to meet at that time anyway considering Chad was attending said wedding with his ex wife, but nevertheless, we find this coincidence amusing.

Instances like that always make me think about how funny life can be. In May of 2011, I was 24 years old and when I think about that time in my life, I remember how I lamented being the perpetually single friend. I never minded being alone so much as I minded the constant reminder that I was alone — does that make sense? I attended that wedding with one of my closest friends and her husband, sans any sort of date. I knew a lot of people that would be there and I just wanted to get dressed up and have a good time, so I did. I have a really vivid memory and I can remember seeing several people there that are part of my life now because of Chad (who was at a completely different point in life than I was at the time), but I really had no idea who they were then. I don’t know why that’s so funny to me, honestly, but it just is. I think it’s so fascinating how things have a way of circling around to where they’re supposed to be.

Have I ever told you all about the first time I met Chad? I know several of you reading this know the story, but I can’t remember if I have ever blogged about it — so, if I have, I’m sorry! Anyway, a close friend of mine and her sister in law insisted that I meet one of their friends, a semi-recently divorced fella who’s reputation for hilarity and hi jinx preceded him, to say the very least. I was not interested or impressed. Anyone that knows me knows that I was staunch about not dating guys who had previously been married, so I figured there was absolutely no point. I had all these boxes that needed to be checked off, you know? Being alone for nearly a decade, a person has plenty of time to fabricate what they think ‘the one’ is supposed to be like and how everything is supposed to be. Anyway, said friend finally broke me down and I agreed to come to a party knowing Chad would be there. This is stupid, and you don’t have to believe me, but know that I wouldn’t say something like this because I am so not this person — when he walked in the door and looked at me, I can remember everything about how his face looked, I noticed how blue his eyes were, and I knew that no one had ever (and I, in turn) looked at me like that before. It was instant, and I hated it, and I ran like the wind. Like the wind, people! We hit it off from the jump, and I spent every second making a list of why it wouldn’t work and why it was a waste of both our time. Though I would have never admitted it and did not for years, at one point, I got straight up bubble guts and thought — “This is the man I’m going to marry.” and then HYSTERICALLY laughed to myself, tucked that thought far, far, far, away and never thought of it until a year and a half later.

Funny story, you guys. I’m gonna marry that man. How dumb is that? How great is that? What I’m trying to say is — screw your boxes! Get outside of those boxes, that checklist, those ideas that everything has to be this way or that way or perfect. Nothing is ever going to be perfect. Chad and I are not perfect now and we never will be. There are things — big things — that we don’t see eye to eye on, things that we may never fully agree on, and things that we struggle with on a regular basis. I would’ve put my hand on a Bible and swore to you (not saying that’s a good idea or something you should do…) that there was literally NO ONE that I could possibly end up with out of all of my friends and their friends and so on and so forth. Then, when all of those feels were staring me in the face, I was like BYE GIRL and wouldn’t even go out with the guy for almost an entire year. What the crap? Dude went and got a girlfriend, I went on dates, I whined around and pined after something that was absolutely wrong for me, and all the while I kept coming back to that night when I saw him for the first time and I couldn’t shake that we needed to at least try.

When I look back and see all of the steps that got me here, I’m really glad. I had awesome experiences, and I keep having them. Going to new places, meeting new people, not being tied to anything — it was amazing and I don’t regret one minute of it. I don’t regret not getting married out of high school or out of college, and I’m not poopooing anyone reading this that did those things. Everyone’s story is different, it’s unique, and it’s absolutely beautiful if you allow it do be. You don’t have to believe me, because now I’m just the ahole on the other side of it saying that things have a way of working out. I get that. Trust me, I get that more than anyone has ever gotten anything. I’m not giving you the *hand to forehead* everything happens for a reason schtick. I’m telling you, please enjoy what’s happening in the now, and you’ll see how things piece together in the future. Your story is not going to be the same as another persons, so don’t let comparison steal the joy in your every day. Four years ago today, I was attending a wedding and the person I am going to marry was there and I had no idea. Two years ago this time, this person and I started crossing paths again after not speaking for a period of time, and 2 years later, we’re engaged and might pop up married anytime.

Just silly.

There’s a level of pain that human beings should not have to endure.  Death, I know, is a certain part of life and giving up loved ones is something everyone goes through at some point.  But, giving up a child, a sweet innocent child, is something I can’t wrap my head around.  When I hear of the death of a child it’s typically far away, in a family that I may know in passing but never one that’s incredibly close to me.  That changed on Saturday, April 4.

I barely remember my life before the Preston/McCarty family were actively in it.  I was 8 years old when my sister started dating Guthrey, and man, I loved him but he drove me nuts.  I’ve never been the best with male authority figures, and he has always been a mix of big brother and Dad to me.  I love and adore his parents, I’ve watched his nieces and nephews grow up (some of them even call me Aunt Lena), I call his Grandparents Granny and Pap, and I have never been made to feel like I didn’t belong in that family even though I’m just Andi’s sister.  Every person in that family is a straight shooter, what you see is definitely what you get, and there are no better people on this Earth.  I’ve always considered myself very blessed to be included with them.  Longest story short — I consider all of them family and love them dearly.

Even though I haven’t been around Ryan (Guthrey’s niece’s youngest son) a lot, I know what a precious miracle he is.  Born with Heterotaxy Syndrome, Ryan’s heart developed on the right side of his body instead of the left.  Since birth, he has had numerous heart surgeries and pulled through like a champ.  Watching that little life, if even from afar, has been a great joy.  When my sister called me on Saturday morning and gave me the news, I couldn’t believe it.  That little fighter, that sweet little life, had slipped right away leaving his Mother, Father, Grandparents, and hosts of Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins grief stricken and broken.  I know since Ryan had always pulled through and fought, they hoped and prayed they had more time.

Funerals are expensive and when you’re a young couple still trying to get your footing, money doesn’t come easy.  If you can spare it, please considering donating to cover the funeral costs here: http://www.gofundme.com/qyxcn4m and if you can’t, please stop and say a prayer for this family as they put Ryan to rest today.  There is no pain or grief that I have ever heard that touches the sounds of a Mother crying over her 3 year old son.  Please help in any way you can.